The Wheeling village board voted down a proposal to establish Philhaven, a low-income housing complex for residents with mental and physical disabilities, before an overflowing crowd Monday night.
More than 120 people filled the village hall and many watched on a television outside the main room as the board listened to more than an hour of public comment for and against the Philhaven project. Then the board voted against the permanent supportive housing plan 6-1.
The board did not discuss the proposal publicly before the vote, and Village President Judy Abruscato's was the only vote in favor of the site plan and a text amendment that would have allowed for services to be provided on-site for the residents. A request to reduce the number of parking spaces allowed, proposed because developers said most residents would not drive, was unanimously rejected.
Jessica Berzac, vice president of acquisitions and development for Daveri Development LLC, said she was surprised by the lack of discussion to explain the vote.
"I'm really disappointed. It seems like their minds were made up before tonight," said Hugh Brady, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Daveri Development is also behind a similar project that was approved in Mount Prospect and started construction earlier this month.
Another Daveri project called Boeger Place was rejected in Arlington Heights and is now the subject of a lawsuit.
Berzac said she doesn't foresee a similar lawsuit in Wheeling at this point but isn't sure what the next steps are for Philhaven, which was proposed to be at 2418 W. Hintz Road.
"I don't know if they'll come back, but I support the housing," Abruscato said after the vote. "I don't think it will be a detriment to the village."
Before the vote, residents of Wheeling and the Prospect Heights neighborhood across Hintz Road expressed concerns about flooding, parking, safety for the residents on a busy road and more.
Others spoke to the fear of having residents with mental illness living within a mile of a day care, Tarkington Elementary and Wheeling High School.
The opposition was countered by many emotional stories from members of the mental health support community and parents who have children that would qualify to live in housing like Philhaven, describing the need for such a complex in the community.
Nick Helmer Jr., son of Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer Sr., passed around photos of his daughter Kate to the audience and said he was speaking on her behalf. He said that when she turns 18 in eight years, she would want to live in a place like Philhaven.
"When you go home tonight, I suggest you give your kids a hug and a kiss," Helmer said. "And say a prayer thanking God that your child does not have a disability like Kate does."
Trustee Dean Argiris said he felt the supporters were "making an emotional argument for a nonemotional question," as the board considers issues like zoning, parking and village code when making a decision.
"There is no debate for the necessity of a project like this in the community. I think it would be a great asset," Argiris said in a brief statement before voting against the text amendment because he said he didn't want to set that precedent. "This is the wrong building in the wrong part of town."